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Thursday, July 15, 2010

How To Tell If You're REALLY A Writer

This advice has been every where lately (I'm not picking on any one particular individual), offered from one 'experienced' author to a novice. The novice question: 

How can one tell if  he or she is REALLY a writer?

The answer from the wise and knowledgeable often goes like this:

Wait until the still of the night, the midnight hour, when all is quiet, when moonlight is streaming through the window in shiny shimmers of oily slivers with speckled gold sparkles, ask the spirit deep within, your heart, the question of which you speak. And if your heart cries out, YES! to the question, then you are truly a writer and that is what you must do and continue to do, from now and to forever, amen.  

Baloney. It means you have an ego issue. Visit a shrink. I have to tell you folks, if you hear me crying out YES! in the middle of the night, lets just say writing or poetry has nothing to do with it.

Here's my thoughts on how to tell you are a writer: you write. You create. You dream. You think. You READ.

What do you think? How can you tell if you are a writer or spittin' at the fan?


  1. If your hands get cramps, you may be a writer.
    If you constantly check your posts at obscure websites to see what your writer buddies think of your last piece you may be a writer.
    If you edit and reedit and reedit your work you may be a writer.
    If you keep a journal, just for you and never it show it to any one else but refer to it constantly and it inspires you to write s'more - your ARE a writer.

  2. Exactly, Mike! You've got the Jeff Foxworthy thang going on. LOL ;-) A writer is one who writes, he or she doesn't have to be the divine gift to mankind. Thanks for giving your thoughts.

  3. I hear the girl in the apartment next to mine crying out "yes, yes" in the night, three or four times a night, every night. She must write allot. There's always guys coming and going from her place. It must be some sort of writer's club. This is so cool. I have a whole writers community right next door and I never knew it. Next time I hear them writing I'm gonna go over and introduce myself.

  4. Baloney indeed. Like you say, you just write.

    btw Sally - let me know how your neighbourly visit goes :)

  5. Sally- I can't think of any better writing group than the ones who scream yes, together, in the dead of night. Something must be going right for them? Less revisions and more flashing... or something.

    S- I'd call you a real life writer. Great words of advice. WRITE.

  6. When you read a book so slowly, dissecting each sentence to see if YOU would've done it like that ...

    When everything you hear or see gets filed in your brain for future use ...

    When you labor and labor and labor over it and YOU STILL HATE IT...


    The line of the day: "I have to tell you folks, if you hear me crying out YES! in the middle of the night, lets just say writing or poetry has nothing to do with it."

  7. I heard Stephen King once say, "If you've ever paid your light bill with the proceeds from something you've written, you are a professional writer."

    And my own - not-so-original-but-agree-with-wholeheartedly - thought: if you've FINISHED something that you've begun writing, it's a good chance you may be a writer.

    ... and if you finally submit that nugget somewhere - chances of being a "real" writer go up tenfold

    ... and if the second you hit "send" or drop that paper in the mail slot, you are immediately gripped with self loathing at all the "mistakes" that you missed, booya. Writer.

  8. Fantastic, fantastic stuff. All of you.

    Haha, Ant! And Chris, that's a great SK quote.

  9. Well, since we are all being brutally honest here, I have discerned a few ways to know if you are a real writer. One is that you stop comparing yourself to other writers...you hear it all the time. "I have written this Bradbury-esque story.." (yup I actually read a quote like this one day and just about puked) or "This is something I have written in the vein of Neil Gaiman." or whatever. Here's a fresh idea: How about writing in the vein of YOURSELF? Those guys are doing just fine, they don't need you to reinvent them. Next thing: keep refining your methods. If you think that your earliest writing is so profound that you have literally written the coolest thing ever, you are probably not looking at it closely. People get better, and sharpen their ideas and learn to analyze them over time. Lastly, and very importantly, if your story is not an autobiography stop filling it with your inner monologue. If all the characters in your book/story are extensions of yourself then you have shown that you cannot detach yourself from the story, which may be the most important ingredient of it. And last pss...but certainly not least: A writer is someone who is as much in love with editing process as the writing itself. "Do, or do not. There is no try." (a green pint-sized Jedi once said).

  10. ps...I never paid a bill with my writing but did get to add it to my Vegas money, and turned it into much more. So there. :P

  11. Thank you for your thoughts, Mark. It's neat to see everyone's opinion. And woohoo on using your sale money for vegas!

  12. Love that pic of Brad, Jodi! And Sally -- are the guys heading into your neighbor's apartment cute? You may want to get in on that critique circle if they are ;-)

  13. Cool post Jodi, and great ideas from everyone too. Writers just write, isn't that it? It's kind of like breathing - we have to do it. I'll stop writing when I stop breathing, though maybe not even then.

  14. Haha Nicole. I'm thinking Brad Pitt probably isn't in that 'critique circle'. ;p Thanks for swinging by.

    Thanks for the compliment, Venus. I agree with you 100%. We aren't just writers, we are creators.

  15. Writers are writers because they write. This sounds lame but it's the truth. You don't have to be published to be a writer, although you *must* hon your skills for all your life and after that.

    Ah, very interesting Sally's writing group. If I were anywhere close I might want to check it out, lol.

  16. Exactly, Mari! And yes, I think we all want to be apart of Sally's neighbor critique group now.

  17. Well, I'm about one month late to the party, but I'll add my two bits. I agree with the statement, You're a writer if you write! It doesn't mean you're necessarily a GOOD writer, or a PUBLISHED writer, or a writer whose works other people might enjoy, but so what? I think of myself as a writer, even though I don't write regularly, and when I do write something, it usually languishes, unread, in my files. Six Sentences was a godsend for me, because it was an easy way to get sort-of-published, and I feel that met many on-line kindred spirits through it. And Absolutely*Kate's Harbinger 33 has been great fun, as well as inspirational. Blogging is fun too, and Jodie...I thank you SO MUCH for your nice, complimentary comments.

  18. Right on, Madam Z. And I love your writing. You are so fun and enchanting. I'm greatful for all those great people too. Hugs, Hon!

  19. Everyone communicates. Anyone past the age of 0 has experiences, which is another word for story. Many have told a story from experience or beyond it. The way to become a writer is to take this common ability and grow it. Mostly, it's getting words to prompt imagination so the reader replays her version of your story in her head, living, feeling it.
    The rest is looking up William Shunn's manuscript standards and sending the hoary thing to whoever duotrope says might take it, and, not giving up.

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